Crime & Courts

Prosecutor Donnie Myers charged with driving under the influence

Donnie Myers
Donnie Myers

Donnie Myers, the solicitor of the 11th Judicial Circuit, was arrested by the South Carolina Highway Patrol on Monday night for driving under the influence.

Myers has been 11th circuit solicitor for decades, and in his role as prosecutor, has become famed for seeking, and winning, the death penalty in murder cases. This isn’t the first time he has run afoul the law whenit comes to driving under the influence.

Myers, 70, was arrested for driving under the influence in 2005, pleading guilty to the charge. In 2012, Myers was charged with having an open container of alcohol in his car after a Highway Patrol trooper stopped him for suspicion of driving under the influence. In that instance, Myers was given a field sobriety test, issued a ticket and allowed to drive home after a 15-minute traffic stop.

On Monday, the Highway Patrol was called to the scene of a single-vehicle collision, South Carolina Department of Public Safety communications liaison Lt. Kelley Hughes said of the incident that occurred on Old Chapin Road and Beech Creek Road in Lexington.

Just before 8 p.m., Lt. Hughes said troopers found a 2007 Lexus had been traveling northbound on Old Chapin Road and attempted to make a left turn onto Beech Creek Road. According to Lt. Hughes, the vehicle ran off the road, striking a utility pole.

When troopers arrived at the scene of the incident, there was no occupant with the vehicle, said Lt. Hughes, adding that once troopers established Myers is the owner of the Lexus, they went to his residence in Lexington. After interviewing him, Lt. Hughes said troopers determined Myers was the driver of the Lexus and was found to be driving under the influence at the time of the collision.

Myers was arrested and transported to the Richland County Detention Center where he took a breath test, which resulted in a 0.09 percent blood alcohol content, “which is above the chargeable level (0.08 percent) for DUI in South Carolina,” said Lt. Hughes, adding that Myers was taken to the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center because of his position as the solicitor of the 11th Judicial Circuit, which includes Lexington County.

Myers was first elected chief prosecutor for Lexington, Saluda, Edgefield and McCormick counties in 1976. In a past profile in The State, Myers admitted he likes to drink and party.

His drinking got him in trouble in 2005 when he was arrested for driving under the influence while attending a conference in Asheville, N.C. According to police citations, Myers’ blood alcohol level was tested twice, registering .14 and .13. The legal level then used for evidence of impairment in North Carolina is .08.

He said his wife woke him up about 2 a.m. because she was in pain from her Crohn’s disease. He had to go out to get her something to eat. Myers said he had a few drinks that night, but doesn’t remember how many. Officers found an open beer in his county-owned car, but Myers said it wasn’t his and he didn’t know who put it there.

Myers eventually pleaded guilty to charges of driving while impaired and having an open container and was sentenced to one year’s probation. The conviction embarrassed him. “I felt like I did the right thing,” he said about pleading guilty.

This isn’t the first time Myers has encountered trouble on Old Cherokee Road. He was pulled over there in 2012, when a trooper spotted Myers’ car swerving out of its lane.

That incident was recorded, and the 15-minute video showed Myers exit his car, approach the trooper and ask, “What did I do?”

As was reported in The State, the trooper told Myers that he was swerving in the middle of the road and then asks, “What’s in that cup right there?”

Myers told the trooper that it was scotch that Sen. Jake Knotts had been drinking. He later told the trooper the drink belonged to his girlfriend, who was no longer in the car. Later, Myers admitted to Alveshire that he had two drinks.

When the trooper asked to administer field sobriety tests, Myers told him that he can’t perform physical tests because he has had back and shoulder surgery.

The trooper gave Myers the field sobriety test known as the horizontal gaze nystagmus. In that test, a suspect must follow the movement of a pen with his eyes. If a person is drunk, his eyes would involuntarily twitch when the pen reaches a certain point in his field of vision. It is considered a reliable test and one that impaired drivers cannot evade when administered correctly.

When the trooper issued instructions for the gaze test, Myers said, “I can do that. I can do that very well. I know what’s going on.”

The trooper repeatedly told Myers to quit moving his head as he moved the pen back and forth.

At one point, the second trooper removes the cup of liquor from Myers’s car. He sniffs it and sets it on the trunk. The first trooper later pours the liquid contents onto the ground and walks off with the cup.

The video ends with the trooper handing Myers a ticket and telling him he had a court date. Myers told him, “You’re a good man.”

Bobby Bryant contributed to this report